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DARLINGTON

INDIANAPOLIS

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INDIANAPOLIS

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THREE THINGS TO WATCH

If everything goes terribly wrong at Indianapolis, Jimmie Johnson (right) might become just a cheerleader for Chase Elliott (left) in the NASCAR playoffs. Johnson has made every playoff field since 2004. [AP/RALPH FRESO]

1. One and done

The 26-race NASCAR Cup Series regular season comes to a conclusion with the Brickyard 400 at Indianapolis Motor Speedway on Sunday and there could be a surprise ending. There is a mathematical chance that seven-time NASCAR champion Jimmie Johnson won’t make the playoffs. “I don’t want to be in this position,” Johnson said. “We have been around this spot for a while. We have seen it coming.”

2. The Indy Open

There are only two playoff spots left in the 16-driver field. If Johnson crashed out early at Indy, it could mean big trouble. “It’s just about cleaning things up,” Johnson said at Darlington. “I didn’t have a great lap in that second round of qualifying that put us back. Unfortunately, we had a loose wheel; and then I missed the commitment line coming in. We’ve just got to clean those things up.”

3. Plates, anyone?

The Indianapolis Xfinity Series race saw a sizeable competition jump from 2016 to 2017 after NASCAR ordered the stock cars outfitted with restrictor plates. In 2016 there were two lead changes. Running with plates last year the race produced 16 lead changes. The plates were used in the Cup Series for the All-Star Race with great success. Connecting the dots — the 2019 Indy Cup Series race may become a plate race.